In the wake of student concerns of mold growth in dorm rooms across campus, it’s important to take the appropriate steps to keep yourself healthy.

If you think it’s mold, have maintenance check it out

University Housing follows a Mold Response Guideline in accordance with the Environmental Protection Agency. The first step of the guidelines is a visual inspection.

“Students that suspect mold in their room should complete a maintenance request so that the issue can be evaluated by staff to determine the best course of action,“ Director of Media Relations Tyra Haag said.

Once a visual inspection is completed, mold sampling may be conducted “to determine the scope of contamination,” according to the university mold guidelines, but the EPA states that mold growth that is present typically does not need to be sampled. Currently, there are no EPA, OSHA or other federal standards in regards to mold, meaning “sampling cannot be used as a method of compliance,” according to the guidelines.

Mold can be prevented, even though it can grow almost anywhere. University Housing lists mold prevention tips on its Healthy Living webpage. Some tips include keeping suite and room doors closed as much as possible to keep outside humidity from entering your space, keeping vents within the room open and free of obstructions, cleaning bathroom areas a least once a week and limiting hot showers to short periods of time.

A complete list of tips can be found here and frequently asked questions are answered here.

Remember, Knoxville is an allergy capital

Consistently ranked as one of the top allergy capitals in the U.S., Knoxville is prone to giving community members the sniffles, especially as the seasons change. Many of the symptoms of mold, mildew and dust collection are similar to that of allergies, including runny noses, red eyes and coughing.

“Students who have never experienced allergies before may develop allergies in our region,” Haag said. “Discerning between common environmental allergies and mold-related concerns cannot be diagnosed without additional testing from a health provider.”

Allergies are commonly mistaken with a cold, and vice versa, but the distinct difference is that most allergies are accompanied by watery eyes, while colds are associated with coughing and fevers. The Student Health Center can help with determining which may be causing you difficulty, and even has allergy medicine availability in the on-site pharmacy.

University Housing offers tips for managing seasonal allergies on the Healthy Living website. Tips include vacuuming and dusting regularly, keeping windows and doors shut often and avoiding disposal of dirty clothes or bags onto beds. A full list of tips can be found here.

Take charge of your health

Once upon a time, you lived in a room, usually by yourself. Now, not only do you have a roommate that you may not know, but you live in a building with a large population of them.

Sickness travels quickly in dorm rooms, especially with students living in such close range to each other. Some ways to prevent sickness include washing your hands, keeping your living area clean and regularly wiping down handles and other commonly used pieces of your dorm.

“If students experience sensitivity, as with all health concerns, they should seek the assistance of our Student Health Services and/or a physician,“ Haag said.

If you become sick, remember to drink fluids and refrain from using common areas. Not only can you pass your sickness along, but someone could get you double-sick by passing along a new illness to you.

The Center for Health Education & Wellness provides resources on cold and flu management on their website, including covering your mouth, getting a flu shot and washing your hands.

Spend some time outside, seriously

Sometimes, a little fresh air can make a world of difference.

Studies have shown that walks — not speed walks to class — can help improve blood pressure and clear the mind. Stress can lead to sickness, and by taking time to smell the roses (or Steak ‘N’ Shake grease) you can keep yourself that much healthier and less likely to get sick.

When the weather is nice, spend some time outside working on your homework instead of an enclosed environment like the library or Student Union. The fresh air will help you stay alert, and may help you actually enjoy your homework a little.

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